Understanding the benefits of API production allows you to coordinate with system owners and other stakeholders to modernize the agency’s systems and unlock the sizable potential. Here are just some of these opportunities.
Efficiency: Providing API access allows for content to be created once and automatically published or made available to many channels. Your agency’s content is ready for easy sharing and redistribution to deliver your mission directly to more citizens.
Wider Reach: By allowing anyone to create a new presentation layer—like an app, a website, or a widget—APIs can be used to distribute services and information to new audiences and in specific contexts that can be customized to provide tailored user experiences. People who do not come to your website can get agency information or services from apps or other websites that they regularly visit.
Leverage Government Assets: Data and information produced by the federal government is a national asset, paid for by the American people. APIs can expose data that was only available to a few and make it more available to everyone.
Automation: APIs allow machines to handle the workload, which would otherwise require the manual work of a human. This can be as simple as having one content update propagate to multiple sections of a site (or multiple websites) at once. More broadly, though, APIs enable not just your team but also your agency to update workflows so that they can be done with fewer steps and greater productivity.
Apps: Providing API access to information or service sets up the use of that information or service in mobile apps. Whether the goal is to support agency-created apps or third-party apps, the first step is enabling API access to the components that would go into a mobile app, thus providing flexibility in delivering information and services. This is especially critical if agencies are going to build more than one app—because the API is a shortcut to the second, third, and fourth apps.
Partnerships: Every agency’s mission is supplemented by like-minded non-profits and businesses, who are interested in using agency information and services to provide services. They do this by consuming and repurposing agency material into new, useful products and putting agency content in front of their customers and clients. This can fuel innovation because any citizen with a good idea can create the next killer app for your communities.
Integration: APIs allow your content to be more easily embedded or interwoven throughout your sites or other applications. Thus, you can ensure a smooth and integrated user experience, and relevant and up-to-date information, for the user. The information is delivered wherever it can be useful to them, not just in those places where your team has had time to update the content.
Personalization: The users of your website, businesses and non-profits benefit from the ability to personalize sessions with the information and services that are most useful to them.
Mashups: Mashups allow the public to better understand your information in the context of other sources of information. An agency service or data stream can be a small, important part of another service. Think about all of the uses of location data—from checking in on a service to mapping a route to finding the nearest gas station. Location data is not the main function but enables the function of the application.
Future-Ready: As needs change, APIs help to support unanticipated future uses. Making data available via API can support faster and easier data migration and improved data quality review and cleanup. APIs can provide greater flexibility in delivering services; for example, using a service that accesses a backend system to power a new product.